Rick Alverson (USA, 1971) directed
The Builder (2010),
New Jerusalem (2011) and
The Comedy (2012).
The Mountain (2018) is a somber historical drama set in the 1950s,
loosely based on the life of lobotomy pioneer Walter Freeman.
The film is all about madness: the story is about curing madness, the doctor who
cures the mad people is mad, the sane father of the mad girl is mad, and
the protagonist eventually goes mad in a madly attempt to reach out to the
girl he loves.
The story takes place in a haunting horror atmosphere enhanced by a
slow and repetitive style, drenched in evocative and somewhat nostalgic
The photography and the slow pace create an otherworldly but very physical
There are, however,
narrative discontinuities and redundancies that could have been edited out.
The acting is spectacular, especially from
Andy is a lonely, introverted kid who lives alone with his father because his
mother is hospitalized in a mental hospital. His father is a former figure
skater who trains female skaters and Andy works at the ice rink. Andy is
despised by his father who seems to consider him as crazy as his mother.
Andy wanders into a room whose walls are covered with pornographic pictures.
His father dies on the ice rink. During a garage sale when Andy is selling
his father's belongings, he is approached by Wally, the doctor who treated
his mother. Wally invites Andy to travel with him and become his photographer
to document his patients.
They start their road trip. They reach a mental hospital where Wally performs
an electroshock and a lobotomy. Wally asks Andy to take pictures of the patient
and enjoys showing slides of his patients to a group of doctors.
Wally entertains himself playing bowling and dancing with a middle-aged
woman he meets there while Andy watches silently.
They move to another asylum where the director is dubious whether there is
a more humane treatment than Wally's electroshock. Wally proceeds to
lobotomize a patient and kills her, but, after cursing, simply asks to
perform the same operation on another patient.
Andy has nightmares and uses a planchette to communicate with the spirit
of his mother.
They stop at a bar where Wally picks up two women. While he has sex with
one of them, the other woman chats with Andy and guesses that he is still
a virgin. She tells Andy that Wally is headed for the clinic where her
daughter Susan is being held. She blames her madness on her father.
When they arrive, the clinic's director tells Wally that he is not welcome
anymore: they prefer the human medication that has become available.
However, Susan's father hires Wally to perform the operation on Susan.
Wally and Andy move to Susan's home. While Wally prepares to perform the
operation on Susan, Susan and Andy make love in her room. Wally interrupts
them and, without saying a word, proceeds to operate on her.
The father gets drunk and speaks deliriously in his native French language.
At another hospital Andy witnesses a patient being dragged into the
operating room while desperately trying to resist. Andy goes mad himself,
destroying the furniture around him until he is restrained by the staff.
Wally then analyzes him like he does with his patients. Andy admits that
he hears his mother's voice and refuses to answer when Wally asks him whether
he lusts for men. Wally also guesses that Andy was a virgin before having
sex with Susan. Wally proceeds to perform the operation also on Andy.
Wally then leaves Andy at Susan's place.
Now both Andy and Susan are reduced to subhumans
They witness Susan's father perform a spiritual therapy ritual,
dancing like a monkey in a circle of meditating people while two musicians
Susan's father then gets drunk and spits out delirious poetry at Andy such
as "I am the future that is waiting".
Andy steals Jack's car and drives away with Susan in a snowy landscape.
They both seem emotion-less robots.
Suddenly he stops the car, gets out, and stands freezing in the snow, wearing
only a T-shirt.